Saudi-Iranian football match in Iran canceled
2 top-tier football clubs of Iran and Saudi Arabia were slated to play match in Isfahan
A football game between a Saudi and Iranian football clubs in Iran was canceled on Monday amid reports of a row over a statue of former Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in the stadium.
Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad was scheduled to play against Iran’s Sepahan in the AFC Champions League at the Naqsh e Jahan stadium in central Iran's Isfahan city.
According to unconfirmed reports, the match was canceled due to the presence of Soleimani’s statue inside the stadium.
The Saudi team reportedly refused to take the ground and immediately left for the airport to take a flight back to Saudi Arabia.
According to Iranian media reports, the match was initially delayed by half an hour at the request of the officials of the Saudi team.
However, even after half an hour, the team did not appear on the field, which gave rise to speculations.
Fars News Agency said the Saudi team had trained at the same stadium on Sunday, a day before the all-important game.
In a statement, Sepahan Football Club said the match was called off by the referee, saying they will lodge a complaint with the AFC.
In a statement, the Asian Football Association (AFC) said the match was canceled due to “unanticipated” and “unforeseen circumstances.”
It said the issue will be referred to the relevant committees, and reiterated its commitment towards ensuring the safety and security of the players, match officials, spectators, and all stakeholders involved.
The football federations of Iran and Saudi have not yet officially commented on the incident.
Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, in January 2020.
Pertinently, Iran and Saudi Arabia in March decided to restore their diplomatic ties after seven years and following two years of negotiations.
Last month, Saudi Arabia's Al-Nassr football club played against Iran's Persepolis at Tehran's Azadi Stadium, which the Saudi team won 2-0.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.